Decision of the Complaints Committee 00661-14 Holling v Barnsley Chronicle
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Duncan Holling complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Barnsley Chronicle had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mum fuming after tot ‘escapes’ nursery”, published in print and online on 26 September 2014.
2. The article reported that a three-year-old child had “escaped” from nursery and returned home alone. It included a photograph of the child and his mother.
3. The complainant was the child’s father. He said that, while the child’s mother had agreed for the story and photograph to be published, he had not given his consent. He considered that this was an intrusion into his child’s privacy, and into his own private family life, which was separate from the child’s life with his mother. He also said that the article was a breach of his parental rights, as he shared responsibility with his former partner.
4. The newspaper apologised for any upset caused to the complainant, but did not accept a breach of the Code. The child’s mother had contacted the newspaper, offering to speak about the incident, and to pose for the picture. The complainant had contacted the news desk prior to publication, but it had appeared that his primary concern was that his ex-wife may have been paid for the story. He had been assured that this was not the case and that, while he may have objected to the publication of his son’s name, this would not be withheld as the newspaper had obtained the consent of the child’s mother. The newspaper was satisfied that, as the primary carer for the child, the mother was in a position to offer this consent. Nonetheless, it had removed the story from its website as a gesture of goodwill.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 3 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child's welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
Findings of the Committee
6. The complainant had not framed his complaint under Clause 6 (Children). Nonetheless, the terms of Clause 6 were relevant to the Committee’s consideration of his complaint under Clause 3, because they set out the special protections afforded by the Code to children, in recognition of their vulnerable position in society. Clause 6 also sets out the Code’s requirements regarding when and from whom consent must be sought for journalistic activity that relates to children. The Committee considered the complaint against this background.
7. The Committee noted first the nature of the material that had been published about the complainant’s son: that he had been involved in an incident, and his mother had been angry, but he had not been harmed and his mother was happy about the way the nursery had handled the incident. No material had been published that directly related to the complainant or other members of the family.
8. The Committee also noted that the story had been placed in the public domain prior to publication, due to a number of social media postings, and that the newspaper had been contacted by a number of other parents who wished to express concern about the incident.
9. Further, in accordance with her right to freedom of expression, the child’s mother was entitled to speak to the press about her experience, and to offer comment on a matter that might cause concern among other parents for the safety of their children.
11. In relation to the publication of the photograph of the complainant’s son, relevant provisions of the Code were contained within Clause 6 (ii); there was no dispute that the newspaper had obtained the consent of a custodial parent for the publication of the photograph.
11. In all the circumstances, there was no breach of Clause 3.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 26/09/2014Date decision issued: 16/01/2015 Back to ruling listing